Pop Playground
I Love 2004

you didn't think your beloved 90s wrecking crew were gone for good, did you? Well, we're back, for one year only, to weigh in on the following, still burning questions:

Just why is Ashlee Simspon so reviled?:

Christina Adkison: Oh, how silly of me! Ashlee doesn't suck, she just forgets to take her Lipitor. Ashlee, please accept my apologies.

And what do Bjork and Snoop Dogg have in common?:

Ken Munson: Hm. I suppose Bjork's Medulla may have actually inspired "Drop It Like It's Hot"… but I can't imagine Bjork being able to deliver "I'm a gangsta, but y'all knew dat" with as much zeal.

So sit back and relax while we drag you kicking and screaming through the year that was. After all, admit it—this is 2004!

Christina Adkison: Kanye really exemplifies the qualities of his homeboy, Jesus Christ. He forsakes all wordly possessions and comforts to devote his life to a higher purpose. How inspiring.

Andrew Unterberger: During the first half of 2004, Kanye seemed like the man that could do no wrong—he had a universally acclaimed album, a series of great music videos, and an underdog demeanor that made him endearing to everyone. But through a series of shitty music videos, ridiculous collaborations and not being able to keep his fucking mouth shut, Kanye fell out of mine and everyone elses’ good graces real goddamn fast.

Pat Brereton: I will readily admit to not seeing what others see in Kanye. Though I often hear him described as the perfect mixture of the backpacker mentality and mainstream accessibility, I have to ask when, exactly, that ever sounded like a good idea. Who likes a fence-sitter? Everyone, apparently.

Kareem Estefan: I like Kanye West less every time I hear him preach, brag, or crack one of his puerile jokes – “Tell me who’s inviteeeeehd…you and me and my diiiiiiick!”

Erick Bieritz: It’s great to see some attention for a rapper from the flyover states, but Kanye has worn out quite a bit of his welcome with his boorish awards show attitude and pompous interviews.

Ken Munson: There are some who might consider Kanye a tiny bit full of himself.

Sam Bloch: What did he say in that one interview? Oh, right, "'All Falls Down' is the best video ever made."

Andrew Unterberger: “I was the best new artist of 2004!!”

Sam Bloch: "I am bigger than Michael Jackson. I am the best singer ever. Best rapper ever. Best producer ever."

Andrew Unterberger: “I got a song about Jesus on the radio!!”

Sam Bloch: "I'm bigger than Jesus!!”

Ken Munson: Back off a bit on the ego, Mr. Kanye, sir. I mean, the Michael Jackson line was funny but it wasn’t THAT funny.

Andrew Unterberger: You can’t realize just how far gone Kanye is until you see ALL THREE VERSIONS of that god awful “Jesus Walks” video in a row.

Scott McKeating: While the “Jesus Walks” promo was still hard hitting despite its use of heavy handed clichés, “The Workout Plan” video was pretty much the worst thing on MTV all year.

Ken Munson: “The New Workout Plan” was a mistake of a single. You don’t release three soulful and earnest singles in a row and then put out something that cynical.

Pat Brereton: Kanye reminds me of the most popular guy in my high school. In his efforts to be all things to all people, he ultimately just emerges as a very contradictary, stylized, and possibly even superficial character -- I don't know if this is a reflection on him as a person (I would like to think that it isn't), but it's my conception of him as an artist.

Josh Timmermann: Kanye West's whole backpacker-in-a-Benz shtick isn't nearly as groundbreaking as he would lead you to believe, but his beats are, and nothing, save possibly Li'l Jon and Jesus, was more inescapable in '04 than That Kanye West Sound.

Scott McKeating: C’mon the majority of his best beats are heavily indebted to the Puffy school of sampling where production means the wholesale rape of another song.

Erick Bieritz: His own singles range from decent to good, but collaborations like “This Way” and “Selfish” have dragged him down considerably this year.

Kareem Estefan: Still, “Slow Jamz” and “All Falls Down” are two of the best singles of the year.

Sam Bloch: "Slow Jamz" is so good, dude. Come on.

Andrew Unterberger: Yeah, he had some great singles and his production style really seemed like the best thing ever for a little while. Still, if we didn’t hear from Mr. West for another half-decade or so. I think we’d be all the better for it.

Scott McKeating: His arrogance is totally unjustified and I hope he falls flat on his silly pullover wearing ass in 2005.

Adrien Begrand: Remember how us Gen Xers scoffed at all the Boomer nostalgia that spiraled out of control in the late 80s and early 90s? Well, whaddya know, but we wound up doing the exact same thing when a whole bunch of bands reunited this year. And was it ever fun.

Erick Bieritz: From Prince to Morrissey to the Cure, none of the ‘80s comeback artists were quite as good as they were during their prime – but almost all of them were much better than anyone would have reasonably expected them to be in 2004.

Pat Brereton: The reunions have been especially timely in light of indie rock's recent obsession with strip mining the '80s until every last nuance has been absorbed and recontextualized by some po-mo pretty boys from NYC.

Adrien Begrand:The Pixies surprised many of us by just how solid they were. They weren't mind-blowing; they simply came out, and played their old songs very, very well.

Ken Munson: I saw the Pixies in concert a few weeks ago. We were sitting behind a couple of thirty-year-old college professors. We were quite surprised to see them at a Pixies concert, and they were surprised to see young punks like us.

Sam Bloch: I stood next to this twenty-eight year old woman with dyed-blond hair. "Yeah, I saw the Pixies three times back in the day. They played 'Debaser' and left after kids started moshing. It was such a long time ago. Hey, what are Camels?"

Adrien Begrand: They might be a bit pudgy now, but they haven't lost a step. Frank Black (or whatever he's calling himself these days) is still in great form.

Sam Bloch: Now as nice as it was to see the Pixies live ... it was kinda like putting on a Pixies CD at a party.

Kareem Estefan: The Pixies were disappointing live. Maybe I desired too much: I wanted to finally understand the band I was ten years too young to know. But if shows normally provide a glimpse into the performers’ personalities, then the concert I attended only distanced me from one of my favorite bands, made me doubt that they had ever resembled real people. Then again, how can you complain when a set list includes “Hey,” “Velouria,” and “Caribou?”

Ken Munson: By the way: Kim Deal? Still cute.

Andrew Unterberger: The only re-union that really affected me was The Cure. They had a great new single (“The End of the World”) and a fantastic package tour with the Curiosa festival.

Pat Brereton: I was lucky enough to have a friend offer me a free ticket to the Atlanta date of Curiosa. It seems that Robert Smith and the boys took a note straight out of Weezer's Comeback Fakebook, 2001 Edition: invite some hip pretty faces who have made a name for themselves by ripping off your vintage material to open for you, and then proceed to blow them out of the fucking water.

Christina Adkison: Sigh. The Cure. They may have whined, but at least their whining was interesting. Modern whiney bands take note.

Pat Brereton: Thursday and Muse represented the mawkish, mid-tempo bombast of early Cure, Interpol called to mind the band's legendary sense of brooding and copped a number of their guitar tones, Mogwai summoned the expansive, swirling guitar ballasts that colored the more obtuse fringes of classic albums like Disintegration, and The Rapture paid pitiful homage to mid-80's dancefloor crossovers like "Close to Me" -- and The Cure annihilated every single one of them.

Andrew Unterberger: He may have totally washed out years ago, but Robert Smith will always make for an interesting spectacle. Even more so than Morrissey.

Christina Adkison: Just when you thought Morrissey was done whining, you find out that you are wrong. Dead wrong.

Adrien Begrand: I'm still amazed at just how fine an album You Are the Quarry is. Before it came out, I thought Morrissey was finished.

Ken Munson: You know, I just took a look at Morrissey’s video for “The First of the Gang to Die,” with him in concert in his old age, doing his Morrissey dances. Prior to this, I hadn’t realized that he had turned into GAY TOM JONES.

Sam Bloch: Mission of Burma had the best comeback, by default. The Cure and Morrissey had been around for a while, and the Pixies didn't make any material.

Andrew Unterberger: On the whole, it was nice of these oldsters to offer up a worthwhile history lesson for us young ‘uns. that missed it the first time around. And if they made enough money off it to buy a couple more truckloads of cigarettes, more power to ‘em.

Pat Brereton: While it's easy (and understandable) for 35 year-olds to bitch and moan about teenagers and college kids attending these reunion shows and mindlessly prancing about in the artifical glow of borrowed nostalgia, I realized at Curiosa that we desperately need these concert experiences, whether we're capable of fully "getting" them or not. Reunions and comebacks afford us the opportunity to see legends in their proper context, or at least a shade of their proper context.

Erick Bieritz: It’s difficult to be too thrilled when there are so many great new artists out there, but don’t expect the Fiery Furnaces to come roaring back in 2016 like the Pixies did in 2004.

Ken Munson: “Lean Back” fits in well with the Macarena, in that I can actually do it so it must obviously suck.

Scott McKeating: Jam of the Summer? I just didn’t get it. As a beat I don’t understand what the fuss was all about, it was ‘good’ at best. Scott Storch has done better.

Erick Bieritz: A dance song with an anti-dancing message? Terror Squad must have been trying to one-up St. Lunatic Murphy Lee in the hip-hop irony department after last year’s oxymoronic hit “What Da Hook Gon Be.”

Andrew Unterberger: When I first heard “Lean Back,” I remember saying that I thought it would be funny if it became perhaps the first ever anti-dance dance crazy. Yet flash forward two months later, and you’ve got Bruce Willis and P. Diddy doing the “Lean Back” at the VMAs. Fat Joe has outsmarted us once again.

Scott McKeating: I bet Fat Joe wishes he kept “Lean Back” for himself instead of sharing it with the rest of the Terror Squad muppets.

Christina Adkison: I think that if you’re as big as the guys are in Terror Squad, you’re only possible dance move is to lean back. I mean, they can’t exactly jitter bug or anything.

Josh Timmermann: The "Lean Back" is the first dance I've successfully mastered since "The Macarena." (Yes, I'm being serious.) Al Gore should give it a go.

Scott McKeating: The only two dances ever worth learning were the ‘Bez’ (boggle eyed flailing) and the ‘C-Walk’ (hopscotch with hand signals)

Ken Munson: You know what’d be funny? If there’s a fat guy out there too fat to do the Lean Back because he’d tip over.

Christina Adkison: I always wondered why my niggas don’t dance and just pull up their pants…and now I know. Thank you, Terror Squad.

Erick Bieritz: Jessica and Ashlee Simpson, the moderately amusing sister act that served as 2004’s pop white noise was neither as odious to rock fans nor as pleasing to pop fans as either faction might suggest, but if nothing else, Ashlee’s “dance of dismay” will go down as one of the year’s most memorable Monday morning water cooler conversations.

Christina Adkison: No one will argue the fact that Jessica Simpson has a lack of brain. But Ashlee Simpson’s lack of voice is far worse.

Ken Munson: Ashlee Simpson sounds like a donkey. Her going “Pie-CES! Pie-CES!” might as well have been “hee-HAW!”

Adrien Begrand: Ashlee with her hair dyed black is a dead ringer for Girschool's Kim McAuliffe, and as "La La" proves, this girl is made for hard rock. She needs to cover "Demolition Boys" immediately...or perhaps do a remake of "Please Don't Touch" with Lemmy.

Ken Munson: If Ashlee was gonna lip synch, you’d think she’d do it to something other than her own sour, unpleasant voice.

Michael Heummann: One of the problems with Tivo is that it allows me not only to skip over commercials on programs I've recorded but it also allows me to skip parts of shows I wouldn't otherwise watch. Hence, when I Tivoed the Saturday Night Live and noticed that the musical guest was Ashlee Simpson, I simply fast forwarded through Simpson's musical numbers like they weren't there. By the time I'd heard about the stupid lip-synching thing, I'd already deleted the program! Sorry, Tivo! I let you down!

Christina Adkison: Oh, how silly of me! Ashlee doesn’t suck, she just forgets to take her Lipitor. Ashlee, please accept my apologies.

Sam Bloch: I heard it was bronchitis.

Andrew Unterberger: Say what you will about Ashlee, the girl’s intuition is razor sharp. If it was me out there on SNL, I probably would’ve just stammered some excuse and shuffled off, but Ashlee ingeniously distracted the crowd with her spellbinding jig and then proudly strode off the stage. Crisis averted.

Ken Munson: My co-workers were quite surprised that I had never heard of Ryan Cabrera. They asked me why I hadn’t seen him on The Ashlee Simpson Show. They were quite surprised when I told them I’d never watched it, and that’s when I realized that things were getting out of hand.

Christina Adkison: Ashlee’s quest to prove that she is nothing like her sister is sickening. She should just allow her persona to mesh into her sister’s. It worked for Ashley Olson.

Ken Munson: Did Jessica Simpson even do anything musical this year? Did she have any hits? ‘Cause I couldn’t go anywhere without that goddamn “Pieces of Me” song, but no Jessica Simpson song is coming to mind.

Josh Timmermann: I don't bother trying to defend Ashlee Simpson the reality tv personality, much less Ashlee Simpson the awkward hoe-down queen, but I'll argue with any cynic until we're both blue in the face that Autobiography was one of the best albums released in 2004. Period.

Adrien Begrand: Seriously Ashlee, get away from the corporate pop. Start singing filthy hard rock, and we'll love you even more.

Pat Brereton: For whatever reason (insert your bullshit theory about post-9/11 America's need to get in touch with their inner Chris Carrabba here), in 2004, the goons in the foreboding towers in New York City have decided to party like it's 1992 and push "sensitive" material created by "real" artist upon the rock-consuming segment of the populace.

Andrew Unterberger: At the beginning of 2004, it would seem inconceivable that Modest Mouse (“that band who made one really good album a couple years ago”), The Killers (“that band that everyone’s talking about on the webboards”) and Franz Ferdinand (“that band with that song Pitchfork gave five stars too”) would end up having three of the biggest rock hits of the year.

Pat Brereton: I don't watch all that much MTV, nor do I listen to the radio, so while I knew that some "indie rock" bands were, in theory, selling a lot more records than they had been expected to sell and hogging room in a few more I-Pods, this never really hit home with me until I sat down to watch the MTV Movie Awards and lo and behold, fuckin' "Float On" was playing in the background, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performed some overwrought ballad against a digitized backdrop of... spring flowers?

Adrien Begrand: How did it happen? People are getting sick of Nickelback and Creed. Dumb bands like those will never go away, but people are starting to realize that it's more fun to dance at a show instead of mosh. Mainstream rock became a little bit more fun in 2004.

Pat Brereton: What's interesting about this rebirth of "alternative" rock in the mainstream, and the reason it's caught so many of us by surprise, is its lack of a single iconic figurehead like Nirvana, or even a group of similar acts like the Seattle scene. The new face of your local Xtreme radio station playlist consists of more bands who share a less tangible set of sonic similarities. The Killers, Interpol, and The Postal Service have very little to do with one another in any sense, other than the fact that they aren't Incubus or Third Eye Blind or John Mayer, and yet, their fanbases appear strikingly similar, and often overlap more than quite a bit.

Erick Biertiz: The indie-to-mainstream class of 2004 was a mixed group. It was odd that Modest Mouse got caught up with the wave of first- and second-album indie bands, as Modest Mouse been around for a decade now; perhaps Isaac and friends were the “career students” who bought beer for everyone else.

Ken Munson: By far, the weirdest band to get big was Modest Mouse, synonymous for so many years with never-ever-gonna-hear-them-on-the-radio-EVER.

Sam Bloch: "Float On" is actually the only good Modest Mouse song.

Adrien Begrand: What an insanely optimistic song "Float On" is. In a messed-up year full of war, hurricanes, the Bush re-election, basketball riots, and killer tsunamis, Isaac Brock's shamelessly goofy (stoned?) utopian vision offered a tiny bit of consolation.

Ken Munson: “Float On” is the best of the indie crossover hits, because it’s the easiest to do a silly little dance to.

Adrien Begrand: "Float On" will probably appear on some VH-1 special about one-hit wonders in five years, but it sure was great to see a hard-working band be rewarded like Modest Mouse were.

Christina Adkison: Modest Mouse. We have no idea what they’re talking about, but we “Float On” nevertheless.

Ken Munson: Most of the first Next Big Thing bands--The Strokes (boring), The Vines (wannabes), or The White Stripes (only pretty good)--have pretty much failed to impress me, honestly. But the Killers… I am utterly unashamed in my sheer enthusiasm for The Killers. The Killers ROCK. The Killers KICK ASS.

Christina Adkison: I love The Killers! I love them so much that I will embarrass myself in print by gushing about them. Not only is there music fantastic, but their music videos are the best that I have seen in quite a while.

Andrew Unterberger: The Killers were the band that made us all realize that it had been way too long since rock bands let their synths take the lead. It’s the next step towards the long overdue resurgence of the key-tar.

Adrien Begrand: The Killers have all the talent ("Mr. Brightside" and "On Top" are proof), but they've also shown they're a step away from becoming the postpunk equivalent of Menswear and Cast a decade earlier.

Kareem Estefan: I think the surprise at the popularity of bands like The Killers is a little unwarranted. I mean, in the mid and late 90s, we had Weezer for jealous love songs, now we have the Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” a song – however catchy it may be – full of high school lines like “destiny is calling me” and trite characterization.

Josh Timmermann: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of the only two rock bands to have emerged in the past several years that I find myself able to get genuinely excited about. Karen O is a force-of-nature, very possibly the most dynamic presence to hit rock since Polly Jean Harvey a decade-plus ago.

Adrien Begrand: It's been a very long time since we saw a singer sell a song in a music video as brilliantly as Karen O does on "Maps".

Josh Timmermann: I interviewed Karen O just after Fever to Tell had come out, and I remember trying to decide whether or not to ask her if Interscope had been disappointed by the album's early sales figures. I, like everyone else who'd heard the record, knew "Maps" was something special, but who would've ever guessed it'd get so big that it would land them a prime spot performing on an MTV awards show?

Andrew Unterberger: Franz Ferdinand were the best of the bunch, though.

Sam Bloch: I'll say it. I made a pretty bitchin' blog post about Franzinand way before they got on MTV. I know. I'm indie rock.

Christina Adkison: The death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand started the First World War. The birth of Franz Ferdinand will (hopefully) save rock and roll.

Adrien Begrand: When I first heard "Take Me Out", it sounded so great that I wished that this would be the one song to break indie post punk, and much to my shock, it did just that. American rock fans embraced Franz Ferdinand, and what a pleasant surprise it was.

Christina Adkison: At my retail job, the store had an in-store radio that played the same five songs in a loop constantly for a month. Even the most decent song turned into a product of hatred and wrath. The only song that didn’t warrant my ever-ending disgust was “Take Me Out.” Good job, Franz.

Ken Munson: Let me say it right now: Franz Ferdinand is a ONE-SONG WONDER. They have nothing in their arsenal that will ever match the awesome power of “Take Me Out,” and they never will. End of story.

Pat Brereton: We must realize, of course, that though the mainstream's rejuvenated interest in "alternative" will only last for so long. Good News for People Who Love Bad News will one day, I speculate, occupy just as much square footage of cutout bin space as Last Splash or You'd Prefer an Astronaut, and some new jock rock trend will have captured the national zeitgeist all over again.

Adrien Begrand: Whether or not this trend has any mainstream staying power remains to be seen, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Ken Munson: Matter of fact, the whole thing brought us a whole mess of good music this year, and it makes me think that maybe we really are that much closer to the new rock revolution that everyone keeps trying to force into existence.

Erick Bieritz: Regardless it’s hard not to be happy about the indie influx, as it was certainly a breath of fresh air for modern rock radio.

Kareem Estfan; To have Modest Mouse break, or to hear a song as uniquely gorgeous as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” on the radio was a real treat. Let’s just avoid saying that this is some sort of zenith for alternative music.

Ken Munson: That Bjork… she keeps coming up with newer and more amazing things for me to completely ignore.

Michael Heummann: Björk's Medulla is one of the more interesting a capella works of recent years. Of course, it's the only a capella work I've heard since I first heard Stockhausen's Stimmung.

Adrien Begrand: The a cappella gimmick was interesting, for about a week. I honestly cannot see how anyone can ever go back to this record and listen to it for pleasure.

Kareem Estefan: I still can’t believe I liked this album. When I read an interview with Bjork about Medulla in The New Yorker, I envisioned a record so unmusical even Bjork’s voice wouldn’t be able to carry it. But “Who Is It?” and “Where Is the Line?” are among Bjork’s best songs, and experiments like “Ancestors” are almost as stunning.

Michael Heummann: Björk's performance at the Athens Olympics was about as silly as all the other things I saw at the Olympics. I believe she came out singing "Oceania" while wearing some monster dress that, when unfurled, ended up covering the entire field. I wonder what the people under her skirt were thinking about during that song? My guess: "Did I just score with Björk?"

Adrien Begrand: Bjork's a lovable little genius, and it pains me to slag her music, but her eccentricity went off the deep end with this one. It's like Radiohead, she's forgotten how to write a good, memorable song.

Josh Timmermann: As unloved as Vespertine has become in retrospect, I'll take its relatively subtle charms any day over the emperor's new clothes that is Medulla. It has some breathtaking moments, to be sure (I mean, it's still a Bjork album, after all), but the novelty of the things wears thin pretty quick

Christina Adkison: Just like her hideous outfits, Bjork’s albums are nothing but desperate cries for attention. We recognize them as such and act accordantly: we go listen to some more “Yeah!”

Erick Bieritz: Bjork’s new vocal minimalism could make her ripe for a series of mash-up albums ala Jay-Z: Bjork & Ozzie’s Bjork at the Moon, Bjork and PiL’s Medulla Box and The Bjork Album, obviously.

Andrew Unterberger: The best thing to come out of the Medulla fiasco, though? Making mouth-click sounds in pop music badass enough for Snoop & Pharrell to go to #1 with “Drop It Like It’s Hot?”

Kareem Estefan: Pharrell was totally listening to Medulla when he thought up the mouth clicks that comprise one of at least ten absolutely awesome aspects of “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”

Ken Munson: Hm. I suppose Bjork’s Medulla may have actually inspired “Drop It Like It’s Hot”… but I can’t imagine Bjork being able to deliver “I’m a gangsta, but y’all knew dat” with as much zeal.

Andrew Unterberger: Bjork would’ve made for a great cameo in the “Drop It Like It’s Hot” video. Plus, we know from “Pagan Poetry” that she knows how to get bling’ed out when necessary.

Kareem Estefan: Now that Bjork collaborated with Kelis for a remix of “Oceania,” I say Pharrell and Snoop Dogg should follow suit.

Josh Timmermann: Usher's was the only legitimate comeback in 2004. He never necessarily went away, but we was so much bigger and better than ever this year.

Andrew Unterberger: Between “Yeah!,” “Burn,” “Confessions” and “My Boo,” Usher was on top of the charts for over half of the year. So, both figuratively and technically, Usher owned 2004.

Ken Munson: Everybody with me now:


Christina Adkison: Yeah! Okay!

Josh Timmermann: "Yeah!" is a song that earned its ubiquity, and (ask me again this time next year) one I'm pretty sure I'll never get sick of.

Christina Adkison: I have probably heard “Yeah!” about 15 million times….. this week. It’s similar to cocaine addiction. You indulge in it and feel energized. Then, you swear that you are totally over it, but the sheer mention of it drags you right back in; you’re hooked.

Ken Munson: See, the year before, I would have told you that Usher was just another bland teenybopper nobody for little girls to masturbate to. But in 2004, all it took was a single Ludacris guest verse to make me realize how amazing Usher really is.

Erick Bieritz: But the real star of this show was Lil’ Jon, weaving through the “Yeah!” video trailing dreds like a goblet-clutching Chinese dragon at a crunk street fair. In a year that also brought Lil’ Scrappy, Ciara and Pitbull to the world, ATL’s king of crunk had the biggest impact.

Pat Brereton: Honestly, I did not hear "Yeah" until about six hours ago. And I'm writing this during the last week of the year. I should probably leave the house a bit more often.

Adrien Begrand: I'll take LCD Soundsystem's "Yeah" instead, thank you.

Erick Bieritz: After smashing pop’s plate-glass window with the “Yeah!” cinderblock, Usher smartly looted the place, finishing out the year with everything he could carry.

Ken Munson: “Burn” is the best R&B; song I’ve heard in quite a while.

Christina Adkison: Usher’s music video for “Burn” is very similar to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” video. However, instead of lighting up, everything Usher touches is set on fire….including water (?).

Andrew Unterberger: I dunno about “Confessions,” though. Something about dancing around on a piano and taking your shirt off in a video that’s supposed to be about how sorry you are for cheating on your girlfriend doesn’t exactly scream sincerity.

Ken Munson: I think Usher and Alicia Keys bring out the best in each other, musically. But I’m never going to be black enough to hear “my boo” as romantic.

Christina Adkison: I thought the duet for “My Boo” was amazing considering Usher was accompanied by the lovely Alicia Keyes, another R & B powerhouse. The song was very inspirational to me, considering that I spend most of the year in a long distance relationship with my significant other. However, when I called my half-Irish, half-Vietnamese boyfriend “boo”, I was only met by a face filled with bewilderment and fear

Kareem Estefan: Usher owned the first half of 2004 for me. But “Burn” and “Confessions” soon wore thin, and at this point, “Yeah!” is the only song I can see myself listening to in the future.

Scott McKeating: Like Michael Jackson used to be, Usher has become a consummate singles artist and again like Jackson his albums suffer in comparison from filler and too many monologues.

Christina Adkison: Usher can never, ever really be considered the new Michael Jackson. He tends to be attracted to people older than him.

Andrew Unterberger: Every year needs a benevolent overseer to make sure all is well in the world of pop music. In 2004, we were lucky enough to have Usher be that overseer. Maybe next year we’ll finally get Nate Dogg.

Michael Heummann: Wow. There are bad songs and REALLY bad songs. This one, however, is in a new category: a FUCKINGLY bad song.

Andrew Unterberger: My brother told me about Eamon’s “Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)” a few weeks before I actually heard it, but I didn’t get what was so great about it just from the description—yeah, so he curses on the chorus, so what? But “Fuck It” is that rare thing in pop music today—a song that truly must be heard to be believed.

Ken Munson: Eamon combined pissy mid-breakup bitching with boring secondhand beats. How could he lose?

Scott McKeating: I had heard the radio edit several million times before I heard the version with the dirty words in it and I initially taken aback at just how much swearing was going on.

Christina Adkison: Um, Eamon….here’s a tip. If you fill your song full of expletives, the censors get so fed up with you that your song won’t get much radio play. If your song has an expletive in its title, your song will never see the light of day. You’re not exactly getting revenge on the girl that wronged you if she isn’t even aware of your vengeful song’s existence.

Adrien Begrand: Hands down, the most nauseating, vomit-inducing single of 2004. Man, were pop apologists ever duped by this piece of crap.

Ken Munson: It’s not the whining or the anger that gets me about this song, it’s those horrible strained vocals. I mean, GOD. It’s like you take an actual, talented singer but then made him try to sing after you drove a spike through his foot.

Andrew Unterberger: It’s hard to tell exactly when for me “Fuck It” went from being the worst song ever to the best song ever, but when dealing with a case like Eamon, the line between the two can be disturbingly thin.

Adrien Begrand: It's as shallow, as low-brow as something Fred Durst would write, only sung by an annoying castrato from Staten Island.

Erick Bieritz: Which event was stranger – that this became something of a hit, or that there was actually an answer track released?

Michael Heumann: If you want to hear a good use of the word "fuck" in a song from 2004, then I direct you to the wonderful "America, Fuck Yeah" from the Team America: World Police soundtrack.

Kareem Estefan: “Fuck It (Don’t Want You Back)” certainly can’t be appreciated as anything but a wonderful novelty hit, but it sure beats your average R&B; breakup song.

Scott McKeating: A slice of genius, though I’m sure he never intended it as anything but a piece of juvenilia that the teenagers would hope they could shock their parents with.

Andrew Unterberger: I can’t think of a single song that gives me more joy than this.

Josh Timmermann: For your diehard Beach Boys cultist, the release of Smile has to be something like the musical equivalent of the Red Sox winning the World Series meant for a lifelong New England baseball fan.

Andrew Unterberger: I couldn’t believe it when I head SMiLE was finally going to come out. I figured the chances of that being released were like the chances of that My Bloody Valentine box set being released divided by the chances of 2004 being the year GnR finally gave us Chinese Democracy.

Scott McKeating: Well, if I’d known it was going to come out officially in 2004 I wouldn’t have spent all that time and money buying and compiling bootleg versions. But I’m happy to see Wilson making some money on the work he did on those songs.

Adrien Begrand: Sure SMiLE is a beautiful sounding album and all, but it's been so revered for so long, without anyone having heard the finished product, that once it came out, it was impossible for it to live up to its legend.

Erick Bieritz: As good as the long-awaited Smile sounds, I already miss the mysterious, unfinished old Smile, in all its ragged glory.

Michael Heummann: Brian Wilson's Smile is probably the best album of 1967—or, at least, would have been if it hadn't actually been released in 2004. The work we have today isn't the magical Rosetta Stone that all rock music fans have long clamored for; rather, it's the Beach Boys equivalent of Roger Waters performing The Wall at the Berlin Wall: a nice gesture, but more of a nostalgia piece than anything else.

Adrien Begrand: It's a happy, human sounding album, not an immortal one, and that was the most enjoyable thing about it.

Erick Bieritz: I certainly don’t object to Brian Wilson’s decision to remake the album, but at the same time I hope that years from now David Lynch does not decide to tie up all the loose ends in Mulholland Drive and redo it so it “makes sense.”

Pat Brereton: In Rolling Stone's Top 500 Songs issue, Brian Wilson lists his top ten all-time tunes, and I think he had penned like five or six of them. He is probably the only songwriter to whom I would ever grant that liberty, and he's probably also the only one so rightfully convinced of his own genius that he would take it. SMiLE gracefully reminds all of us that pop music is indeed a viable form of art.

Adrien Begrand: Now what? Time for Beach Boys fans to start listening to Super Furry Animals.

Josh Timmermann: Now that both the Red Sox have won the World Series and Brian Wilson released SMiLE, let's all cross our fingers and eagerly await the missing reels of Welles' Magnificent Ambersons and the Paris Hilton CD.

Andrew Unterberger: Four top 40 singles, two #1 albums, a VMA winning music video, mashups with everyone from The Beatles to Linkin Park…yeah, I think it’s safe to say that Jay-Z’s retirement is pretty much official.

Christina Adkison: It seems that Jay-Z’s career is about as over as Tupac’s is.

Ken Munson: I began to suspect that perhaps Jay-Z was not quite being truthful about his intentions to retire when I heard him call himself “rap’s Grateful Dead,” who were not a group of people particularly known for bowing out early.

Kareem Estefan: Has anyone noticed a difference between pre-retirement Jay-Z and post-retirement Jay-Z? This is like the time the Dismemberment Plan played “THE LAST SHOW EVER!!!!” when I saw them in Philly, then proceeded to tour Japan for a couple months and play “THE LAST SHOW EVER!!!!” all over again when they came home to D.C.

Ken Munson: Like with Usher and Lil Jon, this is the year I finally “got” Jay-Z.

Scott McKeating: I loved the “99 Problems” video purely because it featured Vincent Gallo, whom I believe to be one of the 12 most interesting men in the world today...though I’m not 100% sure why.

Sam Bloch: That Jay-Z video is such a crock. Why is he reaching out to Vincent Gallo fans? How many fans are there? Did he even see The Brown Bunny? When I did, I was sitting next to a fifty-six year old with eyes wider than dinner plates.

Josh Timmermann: Why is Jay-Z the greatest rapper alive or dead? The man can make Linkin fucking Park sound good. 'Nuff said.

Andrew Unterberger: When it was just Jay-Z being mashed up with The Beatles, it didn’t seem too unreasonable. Then came Metallica, Pavement, Weezer and Linkin Park. Suddenly suspension of disbelief didn’t come quite so easy.

Ken Munson: I think mashups have become really played out, not just for Jay-Z, but in general. But ESPECIALLY for Jay-Z. Somewhere, there’s a remix of Jay-Z and, say, Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks (“The Track Album”), and no one needs to hear it.

Adrien Begrand: Tim G completely upstaged the silly Linkin Park/Jay-Z collaboration with his "Voodoo Problems" mash-up. The way Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" meshes perfectly with "99 Problems" proves that, while it's cool to see MTV trying to popularize the mash-up, the best mixes are still found underground.

Scott McKeating:Coming back?! He never went away. It’s a well known fact that a certain type of person pulls fake public ‘endings’ of things/work/relationships in order to get attention/sympathy/ego boost. He’s a big baby who knew he got stomped by Nas.

Erick Bieritz: But just imagine the tried-and-true scene from any stereotypical action film, where the hero in retirement is drawn back into the fray against his better judgment: Memphis Bleek and Freeway trek through the mountains of Vietnam to an orphanage for children maimed by land mines, where their old friend Shawn Carter has retired from the rap world. “The world needs you, Jigga-” “Don’t call me that! That’s not my name anymore…” He tells them he’s put the rap life behind him, but reluctantly agrees to return when he learns Damon Dash has sold some of his old freestyle tapes to the Insane Clown Posse for a “collaboration” album. This time… it’s personal.

By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-01-26
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